France to host summit on Lebanon without Lebanese representation
France, the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt will take part in the summit, as all five have previously said they want to see army commander Joseph Aoun named president of Lebanon
By News Desk - February 03 2023

(Photo credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters)

French foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre announced on 2 February that Paris will host an international summit next week to discuss the political deadlock in Lebanon.

The meeting, scheduled for 6 February, will be attended by representatives from France, the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt. However, no information is available on whether any Lebanese representatives have been invited.

According to Legendre, France has been discussing with the other four nations ways “to encourage the Lebanese political class to assume its responsibilities and foster a way out of the crisis.”

“This approach will be the subject of a follow-up meeting with the French, US, Saudi, Qatari, and Egyptian administrations on Monday to continue coordinating with our partners and find ways to move forward,” the French official added.

All nations taking part in the summit have previously expressed support for Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander Joseph Aoun to be named president of Lebanon.

The five nations have also provided financial support to the LAF in recent years to supplement soldiers’ salaries.

The news from the Champs-Elysée came on the same day Commander Aoun held talks with Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari, anticipating next week’s summit in Paris.

In January, Aoun met with French Minister of Defense Sebastien Lecornu in Beirut. The month before, Aoun traveled to Qatar to “discuss ways [for Doha] to continue supporting the army.”

Last September, a French-Saudi diplomatic delegation held a meeting in Paris, where kingdom officials revealed that the US, Qatar, and Egypt all favor Aoun as president.

The Saudi delegation also pointed out that US-backed Lebanese Christian parties, including the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb, have no problem with that choice.

Ahead of last year’s general elections in Lebanon, a diplomatic leak revealed that western powers “did not oppose” postponing the ballots on the condition that legislators name Aoun as the country’s next president.

Lebanon has been mired in a political deadlock since October, after former president Michel Aoun ended his term in office. Since then, lawmakers have repeatedly failed to elect a successor.

The presidential crisis has exacerbated a severe economic downturn that has seen the lira lose more than 95 percent of its market value to the US dollar since 2019, while more than 80 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Lebanon is also awaiting the implementation of a US-orchestrated energy-sharing plan with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. But while all preparations have been finished for nearly a year, Washington continues to obstruct the project by refusing to grant sanctions waivers to the nations involved.

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